Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Jackson, 8 March 1764

To Richard Jackson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. March 8. 1764

Dear Sir,

I hear our Money Bill is to come down this Day from the Governor with a Negative.5 It comply’d with four of the Stipulations made at the Council Board, viz. 1. The Proprietaries unappropriated Lands are explicitly exempted from Taxation. 2. Provincial Commissioners of Appeal are appointed. 3. The Paper Currency is made no legal Tender to the Proprietaries. 4. The Money is not to be dispos’d of without the Governor’s Consent. But the other Two, That the best of the Proprietor’s located uncultivated Lands should be taxed no higher than the worst of the People’s; and, That his Town Lots should be exempted from all Tax;6 these the House thought too unjust to be comply’d with. So the Bill will be damn’d, and the King’s Service depriv’d of £50,000, to save the Proprietaries a trifling Tax: unless the House should comply and alter their Bill, which is very uncertain.

Virginia has refus’d to comply in the least with the General’s Requisition;7 as you will see by the enclos’d Papers.

Chief Justice Morris is dead, and another of the Jersey Judges, Mr. Nevil, being disabled by a Palsey, there seem’d to be a Necessity of an immediate new Appointment.8 The Governor, by the Advice of his Council has accordingly appointed Charles Read, Esqr. (who was second Judge) to be Chief Justice, and Mr. Berrien to be Second in his Place. As these are Persons of good Character, and acquainted with the Law, I could wish to hear that the Appointment is confirm’d at home. A Word from you, properly plac’d, may do the Business.9

Sometime last Spring I sent you a Catalogue of a large Collection of Ores, Minerals, and other Fossils of these Parts of America, which Collection is now in our Library; and I requested you would show it to our Friend Tissington.1 I never heard of your receiving it. I sent also Copies of sundry Schemes then on foot here for settling new Colonies.2

I shall write farther by a Ship that sails for London next Sunday. This viâ Bristol, from, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

R. Jackson, Esqr

Endorsed: 8 Mar. 1764 Benjn Franklin Esq

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5For Governor John Penn’s rejection of the Assembly’s £50,000 supply bill of Feb. 24, 1764, see below, p. 111.

6Technically, at least, BF’s words here (repeated in later correspondence) misstate the governor’s position regarding the taxation of proprietary town lots. John Penn never seems to have demanded the total exemption of the Proprietors’ ungranted lands in cities and boroughs from taxation, but rather, as the order in council of Sept. 2, 1760, specified, that they should “be deemed located and uncultivated Lands and rated accordingly and not as Lots.” See above, IX, 206. As a practical matter, however, the application of this principle in combination with the stipulation that located, uncultivated lands in general belonging to the Proprietors should not be assessed higher than the lowest rate applied to located, uncultivated lands of the inhabitants, would result in merely nominal taxation of proprietary town lots. The Assembly’s supply bill provided that the lowest rate of assessment for the inhabitants’ located, uncultivated lands was to be £5 per hundred acres. On this basis, a proprietary town lot would be assessed at one shilling per acre. Since the tax rate was to be 18d. per pound of assessed valuation, the Proprietors would therefore be required to pay only nine-tenths of a penny tax per acre for such a town lot, however valuable it might be. Similar town lots of the inhabitants, on the other hand, were to “be rated at the value which they do or may rent for on short leases” and taxed accordingly.

7In November 1763 Gen. Jeffery Amherst requested Virginia and Pa. to raise 1500 men to be ready by March 1, 1764, to take the offensive against “Delawares, Shawanese, and other Tribes” which had committed atrocities in the Ohio Valley. Pa. promptly complied with the general’s request, but the Virginia House of Burgesses rejected it in January 1764 on the grounds that the colony could not afford the expense. See above, X, 405 n, and this volume, p. 7.

8Robert Hunter Morris (see above, V, 527–8 n; IX, 161 n), formerly governor of Pa., and chief justice of N.J., 1738–64, died on Jan. 27, 1764, while dancing at a ball. Samuel Nevill (c. 1698–1764) came to New Jersey from England in 1736 as heir through his sister’s marriage to Peter Sonmans, one of the East New Jersey Proprietors. He served in the N.J. Assembly, 1743–44, 1749–54, was mayor of Perth Amboy and judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and from 1749 to 1764 was second judge of the Supreme Court. He died in October 1764. William A. Whitehead, Contributions to the Early History of Perth Amboy (N.Y., 1856), pp. 120–4.

9Charles Read (1715–1774), the author of a well-known letter on agriculture to Jared Eliot, long ascribed to BF (see above, III, 436), was secretary of the province of New Jersey, 1744–67, member of the Assembly, 1751–58, member of the Council, 1758–73, and justice of Supreme Court, 1749–54, 1762–64. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, had recommended that Read be appointed chief justice. WF complied with the recommendation and Read took the oaths of office on Feb. 20, 1764. In July, however, the Board of Trade sent notice that Frederick Smyth had been made chief justice, and when Smyth took office in November, Read was relegated to associate justice. John Berrien (1711–1772) was a merchant of Somerset County and a trustee of the College of New Jersey, 1763–72. For Charles Read’s career, see Carl R. Woodward, Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey (New Brunswick, 1941). On Berrien, see I N.J. Arch., XXVI, 208–9 n.

1See above, X, 273 n.

2See above, X, 208–9, 212–15, 225, 231, 254–7, 286.

Index Entries